Seminal: Kate Winslet’s Biting Portrait of Faltering Empathy As Woman-Across-From-Man-With-“Ball Neck” in ‘Movie 43’

A tender meditation on the phenomenon that less delicate people than us have dubbed "ball-neck."

At Flavorwire, we often pay attention to the new, but we make sure to do so not at the expense of what’s come before it. In “Seminal,” a bi-weekly column, we examine earlier, under-acknowledged exemplars of dramatic mastery from revered actors’ careers — moments that should be described as, dare I say, seminal. This week, we’re focusing on Kate Winslet’s shattering performance in the Farrelly Brothers’ romantic drama Movie 43 as Beth, a conflicted woman who unknowingly goes on a blind date with a man who happens to have a pair of testes growing from his neck. [The below clip is perhaps NFSW, because your W probably needs to learn a thing or two about not censoring neck testicles.]

The Farrelly Brothers know how to mine the minutia of human social interactions for often unnerving and even tragic subtextual #feels and, more impressively, #thoughts. “It’s like they cast their rod into a household aquarium and pull out great white sharks every time,” said Gwyneth Paltrow, who starred in one of the brothers’ insinuating dramas about the body as a sociopolitical entity — Shallow Hal — in an interview during which she notoriously refused to speak to anyone who wasn’t dressed as a lima bean.

More than any other Farrelly Brothers movie, Movie 23, and particularly Kate Winslet’s vignette — though that word sounds too diminutive for a scenelet with such massive existential impact — plant dynamite in the age-old cultural entrenchment of Platonic aesthetics.

In other words, this is an arresting treatise for body positivity. In other words, self-love, self-care, and even selfies are very yas, kween.

Beth, a career woman with goals rigidly in keeping with what society expects, seems to want it all: a man who is successful, who can be her intellectual and professional match, and who doesn’t have balls under his chin. Sometimes, she learns, you have to make compromises, because sometimes, a person can’t be all of those things. When Hugh Jackman’s character Davis removes his scarf, revealing the vulnerable neck-testicles, there’s a tense “will she or won’t she” moment where we wonder about the limits of Beth’s integrity. But that question is soon mercilessly answered. Rather than pay attention to the series of intelligent words Jackman’s character utters about lobster, wine, and thanking the chef, Beth can only focus on the way the utterances affect the pendulous pouch beneath Jackman’s chin.

She realizes that in order to cross the thresholds that separate us, it’s not her date’s superfluous neck-testicles that must be eradicated, but rather the embedded stigmas society’s taught her about beauty. Is Beth up to the task of testing her own prejudices? In a mere 6 minutes, Winslet depicts a pained inner battle no smaller than that between true shame and true love, between conformity and individuality. If you’ve ever wondered whether a performance could pave the way towards a more accepting future, I think it’s time to stop wondering and watch this scene in which Kate Winslet sits across from a man with testicle neck. The Farrelly Brothers are really doing the work, and Winslet is their self-martyring worker bee, playing a character who essentially goes from protagonist to conflicted to antagonist in the course of six minutes, as she begins a campaign to humiliate Davis in the middle of a nice restaurant by getting other people to acknowledge the seminal (which is, as we mentioned, a word you could use to describe Winslet’s performance) envelope beneath her date’s glottis.

What’s most telling is the film’s indictment of the gaze, and its subtle use of its central platform — as a film everyone would see — to advocate for selfies, the most radical act a person can commit, really. The final moments of the scene depicts friends of Davis’s attempting to take a photograph of the “couple” on the date, asking Davis to lean in for a kiss, a motion that inevitably leads the testicles graze Winslet’s forehead and prompts her to run from the premises. One can only imagine how this would have gone down differently if Davis had taken control of his own image and turned the lens on himself, asserting his mastery of the proper angles by which to not make his neck testicles flop against his date’s face.

“I may not actually have testes protruding from my Adam’s apple,” said Hugh Jackman, during his unforgettable Oscars speech for Best Supporting Actor for the film. “But I hope I’ve started a discourse in Hollywood about lookism and balls under chins. I feel that, though what I did was selfless, it was also very important. I couldn’t have done it without God, my mom, the ball-neck prosthetic, and Kate Winslet, whose masked reactions of repulsion to the ball-neck prosthetic were ultimately what underlined my character’s struggle. On another note, I’d like to dedicate this award to steel workers in Nebraska. That, too, is hard.”

When Kate Winslet accepted her Golden Globe, she said, “I’ve been in Revolutionary Road, I’ve been in Sense and Sensibility, I’ve been in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I’ve been in Steve Jobs, and I’ve been in Hamlet. Though I’ve tried to seem quietly grateful for my career, I’ve seen that those were all trash, and would like to thank the Farrelly Brothers for finally writing a role that underscores my training and talent; I’ve always wanted to play a character who looks aghast at misplaced testicles, and I hope the Farrelly Brothers keep writing more round, fertile roles for women like this.”